When traveling around Sicily, a lot of Italy in fact, there comes a time in the late afternoon when the small towns shut down for a little (4-hour) pausa. The shops shut their doors, restaurants are switching from lunch to dinner service, and the banks and post offices pull down their gates. Luckily, the only place that's open will usually be a local bar. Travelers usually find this annoying. There's nothing to browse, nowhere to shop, nothing to do but go home to rest or take a little time to appreciate the city itself by popping into a church or having a walk around town. Finding the beauty in this time of day was a turning point for me when I first arrived in Italy. Instead of being annoyed that everything shut down for siesta, I chose to turn off my New York City businesswoman attitude and just enjoy it.
La Passeggiata is a leisurely stroll that people take between lunch and dinnertime. A time to catch up with friends, neighbors, locals. A time to gossip in town, share a drink in a bar, buy a coffee for a friend, or just sit in a piazza and people-watch. The most beautiful part is the older people who still get dressed up and walk (even arm-and-arm) back and forth through the town. You'll see suave suited older men (with fabulous hats of course) sitting in a line in the front of a coffee bar or a church, just chatting and watching the people go by. In small villages, it's usually men who are out at this time of day, the women of course are at home - but I won't get into that. So instead of being upset that the Zara in Palermo is closed at 4pm, just take a peek into a small piazza, relax and watch. It's la passeggiata!